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Jul 10, 2009

Well, all right, probably not.  I doubt very many people on this site live anywhere near me.  Add to that the fact that I'm sitting quietly at home and that we never could decide if I was coughing because of the flu or if my symptoms were a result of travel to a toxic city and the (admittedly fairly mild) sunburn incurred from an entire day at Disneyland....

Whether or not I'm actually sick right now isn't really my point, though. 

I work in institutional housekeeping.  Every day I come into indirect contact with hundreds, perhaps even thousands of people in my community, doing routine cleaning at the local mall.  Mostly bathrooms - you don't realize how unhygenic people really are until you see what they'll do to a public restroom.

[As an aside, it is our corporate policy to make sure our bathrooms are disinfected no less than once an hour and at this time, our bathroom floors are treated with a virucidal agent at least once if not twice a day.  Chances are, my bathrooms are cleaner than the one inside your house.  So relax, you can flush the toliet and turn off the faucets.  It's okay, they won't eat you.]

For this largely thankless job, I get paid minimum wage.  If I keep my nose clean (and my boss can justify keeping me at five days a week instead of four), I might get a week of paid vacation time next year.  I do not get any paid sick leave and the medical insurance our employer offers is both a joke (too expensive for the lack of coverage) and non-COBRA.

In case anyone didn't catch the most relevant point in that last paragraph, let me repeat it: I do not get any paid sick leave.

I need all the hours my boss can give me - frightening as it is, I'm the one in my family with the largest take-home pay right now.  If I get sick, I still have to go to work, or else I may end up having to choose between bills and food.  Since this coughing started I called out for exactly one day and that was only because of a migraine so debilitating I was crying in pain for over three hours.  In the past six months, I have missed work five times: twice for migraine, three times for severe PMS.  That's it.  Seasonal colds?  Dosed up on daytime-formula cold medicines and worked right through them.

Now granted, I am a highly trained professional at this point.  I know how to keep my germs to myself. Part of our on-the-clock work kit is industrial-grade disinfectant, which I use regularly as part of my duties.  So unless I accidentally cough directly on you, I probably won't get you sick. 

At least we hope not. 

But what if it's something more serious than a seasonal cold?  I wouldn't know it myself until I had been sick with it for an unusual amount of time (no health insurance means I am exceedingly slow to go to a doctor for anything - if I get diagnosed with anything while not insured, it gets stamped 'pre-existing condition' and future insurance won't feel the need to cover it) and who knows how many people I will have exposed to myself by then?  And I'm not alone - most of my coworkers are in similar situations.

I don't mind working hard for my money, putting in a little extra effort to get past a tickle in my throat.  I mind that I don't have a choice. 

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Posted: Jul 10, 2009 6:35am


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Lise R.
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Silverdale, WA, USA
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